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Cobblestone and its historical importance


Let me first of all respond to Gussie John’s piece captioned ‘Dr Fraser, Zita and Israel – please!’ that appeared in Tuesday’s Searchlight. Gussie, you obviously wanted to find some way of getting me into your conversation, so you created a Straw Man and proceeded to demolish it.

You wanted to know where were we (that is, Fraser, Zita and Israel) when “friends and supporters of the NDP were behaving like bullies and Bad Johns, threatening people left, right and centre.{{more}} They never publicly condemned them! The trail is there on social media for all to see”. First, you convey the impression that the three names mentioned were part of some conspiracy to support wrong. But, be that as it may, you seem to think that all I do is sit down and follow the goings-on on social media. Sorry to disappoint you. I have other things to do.

Your next statement interests me, “But when the NDP backward forces came for Fraser, he wanted all of us to say something. Too late! What a time! Moon does run ‘til day ketch um.” You obviously do not see me as part of the ‘NDP backward forces,’ as you describe them. Why am I so disappointed! I am really out of touch because I did not even know that some NDP forces came or are planning to come after me; but this is, of course, hyperbole or metaphor and a crude attempt to apply Niemoller. Unfortunately, he is dealing with confronting power and the response to it. I do not get emotional about issues and get that to shape my thought patterns. I am surprised that the NDP ‘backward forces’ will want to get rid of me, when, according to you, I remained silent when they committed their verbal abuses. Let me state clearly that I am capable of defending anything I write or say. Note that my response has to do with your references to me. The others are quite capable of defending themselves.

Moon does indeed run ‘til day ketch um! So, I shall not be surprised “when the masses of people tell ‘him’ to ‘Bear Yo grind’”. Is this a figment of your imagination? Is my grind still to come? Now, if you are responding to anything I wrote or said, l have no problem with that. In fact, I welcome it. But you focus on what I should have done and did not. My position, as stated in the article to which you refer, is quite clear. I stated: “Let me say that this is not to condone wrong for those who have committed wrong will have to bear the consequences, but let there be a fair application.” Why, in a battle when both forces are using the same weapons, should one be declared backward and malicious and the other pure and innocent? Need I say more?

Cobblestone and its historical importance

The Cobblestone building dates back to 1813. This in itself is of historic note, but it is more than that. It was a building in which King Ja Ja, the Nigerian prince who was exiled to St Vincent in 1888, once lived. The building was described as being “a short distance from the sea . . . thirty feet from the sea shore.” It was then owned by DK Porter, whose firm at one time owned about two-thirds of the estates in St Vincent, selling some of them to Walter Barnard of St Lucia in 1909.

The lower section of the Cobblestone building was used as a storeroom for molasses. Ja Ja complained about the smell of molasses “stored immediately under the room he occupies.” The Administrator brought the complaint to Porter, who promised to have the molasses removed and the building “thoroughly cleaned out.” Ja Ja was still not satisfied and settled on a house “in the middle street at the lower end of the town belonging to Mr. Ross.” That building is identified as the one now known as the Gonsalves building. The Police, concerned about supervision in that area, tried to discourage him from moving there, but he refused to listen to them.

While at the Cobblestone, Ja Ja had developed a friendship with one Leacock of Frenches and on at least one occasion stayed at Leacock’s house until very late at night, much to the consternation of the Police who did not see when he returned. On being questioned by the Constable, he took offence, determined to go where he pleased and stay as long as he liked. He resented their interference with his movements. The Police were also concerned that “he seems to have dropped all his former respectable acquaintances and mixes now entirely with people of his own colour, his closest companions being two intelligent and plausible men of doubtful repute.”

Ja Ja’s exile to St Vincent had to do with the British attempt to control the palm oil trade in the area in which he was a major player. He arrived in St Vincent on June 9, 1888, a Saturday, the market day, but was not allowed to land because of the presence in town of a large number of peasants, who were likely to be congregating to see and welcome him. Despite all of this, a large crowd was there to greet him when he disembarked on the Sunday.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.